Catching Up With James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Rodale’s Organic Life

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There’s a new magazine on the stands, and it’s one we can’t wait to leaf through: Rodale’s Organic Life released its premier issue last month. The publication covers cooking, gardening, design and travel, and it’s led by James Oseland, the former Editor-in-Chief of Saveur. We caught up with Oseland to talk about mindful commuting, pesticide-free Riesling and a hidden Manhattan gem with excellent quick pickles. You can find it on stands wherever magazines are sold, but it’s easier to subscribe: They’re offering Edible readers a one-year subscription for $15 that includes a free trial issue and a free gift. Sign up here.

Edible Manhattan: How will the new magazine’s approach to food differ from other mainstream publications? In what ways does your time at Saveur influence Organic Life’s editorial voice?
James Oseland: 
For us, the word “organic” isn’t about hard-and-fast rules, though the USDA certifications play a part. Organic is just one part of an evolving, vibrant relationship people all over are developing with the food we eat, the people who grow it, and the land that sustains it. Our magazine supports that by providing delicious, beautiful recipes, but also information and advice on sourcing ingredients sustainably, choosing and cooking them seasonally, and growing them at home, chemical-free. For too long, the dialogue about eating organic was overly spartan: all raw kale salads and brown rice. Those are both fine (even great sometimes!), but eating organically can be global, sexy, and delicious: from an elegant wild-caught salmon tartare brimming with avocado, lime, and wasabi to a lip-smacking, crackling dry Riesling pressed from sustainably-grown, pesticide-free grapes.

EM: What are some of your essential Greenmarket purchases this May? Are there any one-liner recipes you’d like to share?
JO: After that long harsh winter, it is such a joy to see fresh green ingredients at the farmers’ markets. My go-to ingredients this time of year include baby lettuces, green onions, and spring radishes, which I’m particularly excited about. We published a piece in our debut issue about their many pleasures and possibilities. One simple recipe I absolutely love is to just put whole French breakfast radishes on an airy baguette swiped with butter and topped with flaky sea salt. It’s unbelievable! And we have a few more super quick and delicious radish recipes on our website.

EM: So much of the popular imagination of an “organic life” seems to center around living in a farmhouse with a backyard. How do you adapt some of the principles celebrated in the magazine to life in Manhattan
You absolutely don’t need to live in the country to have an organic mindset! New York City makes it easy to live in eco-friendly ways. You can compost in even the smallest apartment. Public transportation lets you get around with a smaller carbon footprint. There’s an incredible wealth of yoga studios, meditation centers, and alternative therapy practitioners to choose from. And the food! There is a parade of New York restaurants serving absolutely delicious locally sourced and organic dishes. Don’t forget the dozens of farmers markets across all five boroughs. And you don’t need a big back yard to have greenery in your life. Personally, I’ve always planted a window box—tending to one is a wonderful way to bring nature into even in a tiny urban space, and be more in tune to the seasons. We just put together step-by-step instructions for planting one here. You also might try imbuing your commute with mindfulness, or making your kitchen a zero-waste zone.

EM: What’s your favorite Manhattan restaurant we’ve never heard of?
JO: Well, it’s not organic, but it’s awfully delicious: a little Taiwanese joint called Excellent Pork Chop House. It’s a family-run place where you can get fabulous renditions of any number of Taiwanese classics. My favorite dish of all is a quick-pickled side made with smashed Kirby cucumber, a drizzle of sesame oil, and a load of crushed raw garlic. Whenever I eat it, I’m instantly transported to Taipei.

Claire Brown

Claire is the Associate Digital Editor at Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. When she's not writing about food, she can often be found leading tours at the Union Square Greenmarket.

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